Thursday, 3 November 2011

‘Dark Apostle’ – Anthony Reynolds (Black Library)

In an ideal world I would start every series at the beginning and work through (in order) to its conclusion. This isn’t an ideal world though and sometimes I’ll find myself starting a series halfway through and then having to double back and see how it all began. This has been the case with Dan Abnett’s ‘Gaunt’s Ghosts’ series and it’s also the case with Anthony Reynolds’ ‘Word Bearers’ series, his stories of the Chaos worshipping Traitor Marines (in the Warhammer 40K series). An unfortunate case of ‘Dark Apostle’s’ release failing, in any way, to align with where my blog was at (at this time) meant that I didn’t even realise there was such a book and I ended up kicking things off with ‘Dark Disciple’ (the next book) and then moving onto ‘Dark Creed’. Luckily enough for me, these two books stood well enough on their own for it not to be too much of an issue; you can check out my reviews Here and Here.

Next year will see the ‘Word Bearers’ books get the omnibus treatment and be released in one volume. I was lucky enough to get an early copy and thus I finally got the chance to go back to the beginning and see how it all began for Dark Apostle Marduk and his band...

Of all the Traitor Legions, the most feared are the Word Bearers as their devotion to all the dark gods has been the death knell for countless worlds over the millennia. Now the Imperial held planet of Tanakreg is firmly fixed in the sights of the Word Bearer Dark Apostle Jarulek and his band. Tanakreg falls as quickly as any other planet but the real work has only just begun for Jarulek and his men. Enslaved by the Word Bearers, the planet’s populace work without rest to build a monstrous tower that must be defended from Imperial forces working to regain the world. What is the purpose of this tower and will anything be left of Tanakreg if that purpose is ever revealed...?

‘Dark Apostle’ is a grim and relentless beast of a novel that will have you despairing at the ultimate futility of human endeavour; if you haven’t sold your own soul to the ruinous powers by the end of the book then it’s surely only a matter of time... It's still a bloody good read though.

I’m being serious, we’re talking about two hundred and forty five pages of all out warfare where the good either die very quickly or end up doing the bidding of the Word Bearers whilst fighting the insidious influence of Chaos. In the meantime,  the most reprehensible and evil bunch of characters you’ve possibly ever met are striding across a landscape of churned up mud and assorted viscera, fighting not only to strike against the hated Imperium but also to further their own individual quests for power within the Word Bearers Legion. There is a lot of intrigue going on here and all of it is aimed at the eventual demise of one character or another. You will probably see the twist coming, towards the end of the book, but this is really a tale where the fun is in making the journey. Like I said, you’ll see the twist coming but one character definitely does not and that’s where the fun lies.

Two hundred and forty five pages is probably just the right number of pages to write what is essentially a pitched battle on paper. It does feel though like things are cut very fine as far as that goes. While Reynolds does well to intersperse the combat with moments that focus in on individual characters (making the war more ‘human’ as it were; check out the inner turmoil of Varnus and the implacable yet slightly tragic menace of the Warmonger) the ebb and flow becomes very routine and you can almost predict who is going to push forwards and who will retreat. This sense of routine doesn’t do a lot for the pacing either.
In this sense, ‘Dark Apostle’ is perhaps best suited for long term fans of the setting and game, Reynolds certainly peppers the plot with enough terminology and setting specific ordinance to make fans feel very much at home. If you’re a fan of military science fiction in general though then I reckon you’ll get quite a kick out of this anyway. There is a lot happening and it’s all very much thrown right in your face with the force of an exploding bolt shell.

I’m usually good for a few more words than this but it’s testament to ‘Dark Apostle’s’ ability to stick to its goals that I’ve pretty much said all I can. It may be a little too relentless and grinding at times but ‘Dark Apostle’ tells a mean tale and packs one hell of a punch. I’m glad that I finally got a chance to read it. Individual copies are doing the rounds on Amazon but I’d do yourself a real favour and wait for the omnibus edition.

Eight and a Half out of Ten


Erik Lundqvist (@erik_lundqvist) said...

I struggle with the chaos marines books. I'm too much of a softie. Cant help wanting them to fail, which usually ends up with me being really disappointed :)

Blitzspear said...

Stop taunting me Graeme ive been looking for that book for 2 weeks to return to my friend.found diciple strait away and creed turned up in the attic on Saturday but Apostle is MIA. Good books but i to have difficulty with Chaos Marines tho Blood Gorgon is on my to read list.